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Tupelo Christian Preparatory School plans expansion

TUPELO — Last summer, Tupelo Christian Preparatory School (TCPS) was celebrating its move into a more spacious 32,000-square-foot facility on 45 acres on Endville Road in the western part of the city. Less than a year later, the school has embarked on phase one of an eight-to-10 year building plan that will add classrooms, science labs, athletic facilities and other amenities to its campus.

“The school has continued to grow,” said Neal Clement, board chairman of the non-denominational school. “Last year, we had 180 students registered and we ended with 235. We have 260 pre-registered for next year and anticipate that number will increase when school begins.”

Previously, TCPS was located on the grounds of First Evangelical Church on McCullough Boulevard in Tupelo. TCPS moved into its current facility last August. During the 2003-2004 school year, seventh-grade classes were added and eighth-grade classes will be added this fall for the 2004-2005 school year. Clement said that the board has expansion plans to add a grade each of the following four years until the school is consolidated pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It’s important to give parents a consolidated alternative,” Clement said. “Adding the senior high at some point will strengthen our school.”

Recently, the TCPS held an open house where the expansion plans were unveiled and visitors were invited to tour the existing facility and visit with administrators, board members and teachers. Harrison Signature Properties designed the long-range plan, which ultimately includes the development of a high school classroom building and gym, soccer, baseball and softball fields, field houses, parking lots, a concession stand and press box and tennis courts.

In the short term, TCPS will be completing what has been a stubbed addition to its existing gym that will include a kitchen, cafeteria and dining area. TCPS will also add six classrooms and two more sets of bathrooms to the main building. Included in this addition will be state-of-the-art science labs. A football field surrounded by a track facility will also be added to the campus this year. Overall, the above-mentioned short-term construction projects and football/track enhancements are estimated to cost over $500,000. Clement said that TCPS hopes to break ground on phase one expansions in June. Clement said the location provides an ideal marketing advantage, given its visibility from Highway 78.

“Once the football field is completed, it will be more clear to those passing by on the highway that we are a school campus,” Clement said. Clement said that the board is weighing the possibility of a billboard or signage in the next one-to-two years that will be visible from Highway 78.

Given all of these objectives, the school is initiating an annual fundraising drive with a goal of $200,000. Clement said that the families of TCPS students have developed a vision for the school and have shown that they are committed to that vision through their support.

“We feel like we have one of the strongest preschool programs in the nation and if you can establish a core of excellence in the early grades, it gives you the momentum for the upper grades,” Clement said. TCPS headmaster Steve Orr said that he is excited about the short-term and long-range plans and for the parental support demonstrated at the school. He added that this support reflects itself in an outstanding education, noting that TCPS pre-first students scored higher than 96.9% of students in the nation in the 2003-2004 Stanford Achievement Test.

Orr added that TCPS students also demonstrate strong achievement in writing and art, winning awards in competition such as Gum Tree and in various regional/state art competitions. Athletically, the school’s fifth- and sixth- grade boys won the MPSA district basketball tournament and TCPS students have won several individual honors in MPSA swimming competitions. Orr said that students are also actively involved in community service projects and make monthly student ministry visits to the Mitchell Center, an area nursing home.

To reinforce the diversity and quality of the TCPS educational experience, the school has run advertisements profiling the accomplishments of various former students, ranging from National Merit Finalist honors to prestigious college scholarships. The ads include students’ quotes and observations on how TCPS contributed to their success.

“We know that as a school, you can’t be one-dimensional,” Clement said. “You have to have programs that appeal to the needs of families and children as our students transition in their growth from year to year. It’s difficult to meet the needs of families if you are only offering a limited number of grades. That’s why we are so excited about this long-range plan. We really think that as a Christian preparatory school that we have something to offer as an alternative to families in the region.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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